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Five Ways to Balance Good and Bad Stress

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No one likes getting stuck in a mile-long bottleneck on the freeway when you’re going to work. But while traffic jams may make your blood boil a bit, we’ve got good news: stress brought on by day-to-day events such as your daily commute, cramming for an exam, or preparing for an important presentation can actually help your health, and may even extend your life.

Skeptical? So were we—but according to a recent study from Ohio State University, mice that experienced short-term stress were better prepared to fight off a flu virus. Other studies have linked short-term stress to a reduced risk of a wide variety of diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

The results seem counter-intuitive: after all, don’t we usually hear that high blood pressure and heart attacks are often brought on by stress? For people with constantly stressful jobs, or difficult family situations, that is indeed the case. But incidents of short-term stress that are quickly resolved have the opposite effect, inspiring the body to quickly repair itself.

Periodic bursts of stress won’t just help you recover more quickly from illnesses, according to Edward Masoro, a physiology professor emeritus at the University of Texas, “it stands to reason that it would slow down aging.”

So how can you make sure that you’re enduring the right sort of stress? MSNBC provided these expert tips:

1. Keep track of your stress level on a 1–10 scale each day. If it comes in at 5 or higher for two straight days, make some time to take part in relaxing activities that you enjoy.

2. Have an adventure. New and exciting activities, such as rock climbing or going to a party where you don’t know anyone, can stimulate short bursts of stress, which will have a positive effect on your body.

3. Create a “What-I’ve-done” list. Focusing only on what needs to be accomplished can lead to long-term stress, so make sure that you remind yourself of your accomplishments on a regular basis to lighten your mood.

4. Try new sensations. Next time you go to a restaurant, try the spiciest dish that you can handle. It may be tough at first, but it’s a great way to kick-start your immune system into overdrive.

5. Exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon to see the effects—any exercise that makes you sweat will give you the stress you need to fix the damage in your body.

By Kathryn Hawkins, for, the site for good news, served daily. Sign up for our newsletter or stop by for your daily dose of inspiration!

Updated on November 28, 2010


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